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Article 4 min read

New Zendesk research: how to go omnichannel

By Katharine Crane

Last updated August 30, 2023

Omnichannel has rapidly become the standard for meeting customer expectations in support. This approach is defined by allowing customers to move seamlessly across several channels, including self-service and live channels like phone and chat support.

Recently, we sifted through the Zendesk Benchmark, our index of product usage data from more than 45,000 Zendesk customers. What emerged from that analysis was our two new Benchmark reports on why companies are taking an omnichannel approach and how to do it, based on the data from real companies. The main takeaway? Omnichannel support leads to less wait time for customers, faster resolution, and fewer follow-ups.

Once you’ve made the decision to go omnichannel, there are critical decisions to make in areas including channel-rollout strategy, setting up your self-service options, and choosing the right technology partners. Here are some tips.

Be savvy as you add and integrate channels

The key to an overall channel approach is to listen to your customers and adopt channels that align with your support team’s capabilities and your customers’ preferences. We found that most companies move quickly to add support channels, and both B2C and B2B companies tend to roll out about three channels in their first month using Zendesk.

The typical path is to launch with standard support channels, email and webform, then to add self-service options. Next, most companies look to roll out live channels like phone and chat support.

But companies often lag behind when it comes to connecting channels, a critical part of a truly integrated omnichannel solution. According to Dimension Data, nearly 70 percent of organisations currently have none, or very few, channels connected, though 80 percent aim to have all or most channels connected within two years.

A good starting point is to look at your overall channel strategy from your customers’ perspective. How can you connect channels so customer data isn’t lost when customers switch channels? Make sure there’s one record of the customer and no divisions when it comes to tickets across channels.

Then look to make sure your channel strategy suits your customers. Try out offering proactive chats on error, sales, or onboarding pages, and find where failed searches lead to tickets to build out your help center. Balancing staffing across live and non-live channels can be tricky, so try letting agents work on emails and webforms in off hours or between calls to keep productivity high as you add channels.

Use data to build your help center

Forrester found that 76% of customers prefer self-service to alternatives like email or phone support, and more than half of customers will abandon their online purchases if they can’t find fast and easy answers to their questions. We learned that self-service is among the first channels companies launch regardless of their size, target audience, or how their support team is structured.

Our analysis of 500 help centers found that companies that are especially proactive about adding to their self-service offerings see the best results. Their help centers are better at getting customer questions resolved quickly and efficiently.

To make your help center stand out: Follow the path of companies with the best-performing help centres, and take a lean and agile approach to building out help center content. Start by launching with answers to the top five most frequently-asked questions, since Zendesk Benchmark data shows that the top five articles in a company’s help center tend to account for 40 percent of daily views.

Then empower agents to own the content creation process. This means getting them involved in adding articles with approval and publishing workflows that let them collaborate easily. It also means using AI and automation — like Zendesk’s Knowledge Capture app — where possible speed up the process of answering customer inquiries.

Choose technology partners wisely

Most Zendesk Benchmark companies rely on apps and integrations — 60 percent of companies in our sample used at least one. They enable support teams to collaborate effectively and provide a consistent customer experience across platforms and tools.

Some are integrations are standard for all companies: These include Tymeshift for workforce management, Lessonly for agent training, and Unbabel for translation.

Retail and e-commerce companies should consider integrations that boost customer loyalty, including those that align with their e-commerce platform (like BigCommerce, Magento, or Shopify) and let them pipe in data from company and product reviews (Trustpilot, Yext, or Yotpo).

And SaaS companies should think about adding integrations geared toward bringing teams together to address customer issues. Slack, project management tools like JIRA and Trello, and screen-share support integrations like CloudApp and Zoom are all worth considering.

But whether you’re adding channels and integrations, or building out your help center, the bottom line is: Let your customers teach you. Use what you learn about common customer questions and preferences to inform their rollout strategy across email, webform, self-service, and live channels.

For more on why and how to take an omnichannel approach, check out our latest Zendesk Benchmark reports. And learn more about the Zendesk Suite, which offers everything companies need to enable conversations with customers to flow across channels seamlessly, wrapped up in one simple package and an amazing price.